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Challenge: Keeping Your Cool

Middle School and Menopause: The joys of sleep-away camp

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My 10-year-old went away to sleep-away camp for the first time this summer. For a week. She was so excited – we went over the list 100 times, checked her bags, made sure she had her favorite stuffed animal (and one she was bringing for a friend) the flashlight had batteries. We were good. I took her to the bus Monday morning, hugged, kissed, said good-bye. All was good.


I had a whole week spread out before me... a verdant and distantly familiar path from before I became a single mom at 41. What had I eaten for dinner before I had all that food in the house all the time? What did I do with my time? There were no great stacks of novels I’d written in my 30’s, no Olympic medals trained for and won. Yes, I had worked long hours and had fun with friends, traveled, tried new restaurants, walked my dog.

Well, as soon as I had the baby, the dog moved in with the neighbors and my life, happily, turned to diapers, pre-K, playdates, bedtime dragon stories and tug of wars over screen time.

But now I had a whole week alone. The best part of the week: that no-nagging hour in the morning. I only had to brush my own teeth, didn’t have to say 20 times “did you brush your teeth?” Didn’t have to pack a lunch. Didn’t have to make sure the water bottle was in the backpack.


The worst part of the week: no one came to the door when I got home. And I developed an addiction to the camp photos posted twice a day... but never at the same time. Scrolling through to find a shot of my camper... was she smiling? Was she part of the group? Did she still have the hat she had begged to buy before she left and I was sure she’d lose the first day? (Last I saw in the pictures on Wednesday, it was still firmly on her head. Plus I had made her buy it with her own money.) All looked good in the pictures. All week, it’s been hard for me to imagine that when I had been away for a month in the summer and in the dark pre-digital age, my parents had to make due with visiting day and a letter or two. I’m not sure I could be so strong.

But I also enjoyed myself. Dinner by the water with friends. An evening dance class I’d been dying to try. A favorite movie that popped up on my Netflix suggested-for-you list (“The Sting”). Lots of Olympic sweat and tears (the athlete’s sweat, my tears). Take out and leftovers. A rare drink or two.


We both celebrated our own independence this week (albeit a little after the national celebration). For me, it wasn’t a sea-change, no revelations but more like a deep breath, a little more silence in my life, little pleasures. Tonight, I find out what it meant for her. I look forward to stories and re-enactments of skits and songs. I know, within moments, we’ll fall back into our routine... I’ll be watching Olympic competition and crying, she’ll be watching YouTube and laughing, the nagging will rise again, there will be lots of laundry to do.

I hope we’ll resume our regular rhythm with a little new spring in our step, a little new appreciation of our time apart to grow into who were are (or remember who we were) and a little more energy as we tackle the adventures ahead. *sigh*

OK, 5th grade, bring it on!

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